Can In-law Gifts and Support be Considered During my California Divorce?

Can In-law Gifts and Support be Considered During my California Divorce?

Divorce can be devastating on multiple levels—especially financially. Getting through the process and back on your feet can take time. In this situation, it’s not uncommon for family members to help out by providing extra funds. Depending on the circumstances, someone’s family support could be a temporary measure or ongoing. Additionally, some family “gifts” operate more like recurring income. If you or your ex are getting supplemental financial assistance from family, you will want to know: Can in-law gifts and support be considered during my California divorce?

Do Family Resources Matter During Divorce?

Depending on the circumstances, family support may or may not be relevant during a California divorce. California is a community property state meaning that outside of certain limited exceptions, each partner has equal ownership of the assets (and debts) they acquire during marriage. This is true even if one or both partners’ family has considerable wealth.

When adults divorce, their in-laws’ income and resources are not usually factors. However, there can be situations, such as when a couple has a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement involving an inheritance or family income, where these resources may be pertinent. In-law resources may also matter when dividing marital interest in a family business.

Family support is usually implicated during divorce when a partner’s parents or other relative gives them money or something of value to help with their expenses. For example, suppose your ex’s parents are routinely giving them $8000 per month for their living expenses or a rent-free home, and they are requesting spousal maintenance (alimony) from you? Likewise, what if your ex is “gifted” $15,000 from their sibling every other month but claims they don’t have income for child support? In these circumstances, information regarding family gifts may be important for assessing support.

Is this Recurring or Occasional Family Support?

One factor to consider regarding in-law support during divorce is how often you or your ex are receiving funds. If in-laws provide the occasional check to help with bills, that’s one thing. However, if their support is periodic and regular, the court may be more inclined to consider the funds during the divorce. In addition, this support may also be considered a recurring resource when determining a party’s ability to pay their attorney’s fees. 

Is this a Loan or a Gift?

Another question to ask is whether the family support funds at issue are a loan or a gift? Your in-laws may be making an outright gift. However, there is also the possibility that they have an arrangement with your ex that’s more akin to a loan. Generally speaking, the court is not likely to consider a loan as income. However, if it’s apparent that your ex’s family is gifting them “loan” money, the court may decide that this resource qualifies as income. Further, if your ex claims their in-law income is a loan, but there is evidence that they will never repay the amount, the court may decide it’s a gift. Especially if the “loan” is ongoing and your ex has repaid little to no amount of the sum.

Contact an Experienced California Divorce Attorney

The best way to assess how in-law gifts may impact maintenance, support, attorney’s fees, and other issues in your case is by consulting with an experienced California divorce attorney. Your counsel can help you evaluate your situation and understand your options.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced California divorce attorneys who can help you during all phases of your divorce. We understand the importance of accurately accounting for financial resources during your California divorce and can help. Our firm assists clients along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website.

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